Augustinian Hermits (OESA = Ordo Eremitorum Sancti Augustini; now OSA = Ordo Sancti Augustini, Augustinians, Austin Friars). Mendicant order adhering to the Rule of St. Augustine, founded in 1256 by the merging of hermit congregations; spread quickly throughout the Christian Occident (1st monastery in Austria: Völkermarkt, 1256). The most prosperous times of this order were in the 14th and 18th centuries.
At first the order's branches in the Bohemian and Austrian regions belonged to the Province of Bavaria. The monasteries in Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria and Carinthia were united to form independent provinces in 1653, in Tyrol and Salzburg in 1679. In the middle of the 18th century the Austro-Hungarian order province boasted 290 members in 14 branches. Joseph II's closing of monasteries and secularisation efforts in the 1st half of the 19th century led to the closing of all monasteries in Austria. In 1951, Sudeten German Augustinian Hermits who had been driven out of their homeland took over the church of St. Augustine in the 1st district of Vienna; this is the only monastery of the Augustinian order in Austria today (1994: 6 conventuals; seat of regional vicariate with 2 additional branches in Germany).
The court monastery in Vienna (1327-1812) with its still surviving Gothic church near the Imperial Palace was one of the most important convents; its monks held a large number of chairs on the University faculty, and it had one of the largest monastery libraries in Vienna. The magnificent church and the "Augustiner-Bräu" brewery still remind us of the branch in Salzburg-Mülln (1605-1855).
Other branches existed in the 18th century in Lower Austria (Baden, Bruck an der Leitha, Korneuburg), in Burgenland (Lockenhaus), in Styria (Fürstenfeld, Graz, Hohenmauten, St. Leonhard), in Salzburg (Dürrnberg, Hallein, Salzburghofen) and in Tyrol (Kufstein, Rattenberg, Seefeld).
Further reading: F. Rennhofer, Augustiner-Klöster in Österreich, 1956.